Adelaide Strikers 155 for 7 (Weatherald 56, Thornton 28*, Connolly 2-17, Hardie 2-24) beat Perth Scorchers 105 (Fanning 31, Pope 4-24, Boyce 3-20) by 50 runs
Strikers will travel to the Gold Coast and face Brisbane Heat in the Challenger on Monday, with the winner to meet Sydney Sixers in the final at the SCG.
Strikers then superbly defended 155 for 7 with Boyce and Pope combining for seven wickets, including stars Aaron Hardie and Josh Inglis, to stun Scorchers.
Scorchers and Western Australia had swept all six domestic titles over the last two seasons. But they could not stop red-hot Strikers, who defied the absences of ILT20-bound Chris Lynn, Adam Hose and allrounder Jamie Overton.
After being sent in, Strikers’ hopes of setting a big target rested with skipper Matthew Short who was coming off scoring the most-ever runs in a 10-game regular season. He had also blasted Scorchers for a pair of 70s during the season. But it was his namesake D’Arcy Short who came out blazing before falling to a brilliant return catch from left-arm quick Jason Behrendorff.
Matthew Short looked in ominous form when he whacked a short delivery from speedster Lance Morris to the boundary. Something special was needed to dismiss Short cheaply and veteran seamer Andrew Tye stepped up with a gem of an inswinging yorker that rattled the stumps.
Strikers were seemingly shaken by the dismissal with Thomas Kelly struggling to score in the overs before drinks. In an inspired move, Hardie reverted to left-arm spinning allrounder Cooper Connolly who hadn’t bowled in Scorchers’ last three matches.
Connolly justified the faith by dismissing Kelly before Hardie brilliantly ran out Harry Nielsen with a direct throw from mid-on to leave Strikers in ruins at 48 for 4.
Veteran Weatherald has grabbed his opportunities since being a late-season inclusion and dominated after drinks. He used his feet superbly against left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, whose home struggles continued in contrast to his miserly bowling on slower surfaces on the east coast.
Weatherald raced to his half-century in 30 balls, but fell shortly after when he failed to execute a reverse scoop against Hardie, who then dismissed James Bazley to put Scorchers well on top.
But their death bowling woes against Sixers reared with Strikers smashing 45 runs off the last five overs. Ben Manenti, who in recent seasons has been a thorn to Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield, and Henry Thornton effectively threw the bat as Strikers finished with a competitive total.
Strikers’ strong attack sensed an opportunity against a revamped Scorchers opening partnership of Sam Fanning and Marcus Harris, who were both late-season signings.
Debutant Fanning started with a fearless approach to continually bludgeon through the offside. Fanning, 23, made a duck against Queensland in the Sheffield Shield in his only innings in domestic cricket this season. But he had entered with a century in local grade cricket and carried over that form with an assault on the new-ball, where he cracked two sixes off left-arm seamer David Payne in the fourth over.
Fanning overshadowed Harris, who played sedately in his first innings since being overlooked for Australia’s Test team. It appeared like a fairytale was unfolding until Fanning holed out in the fifth over after scoring 31 of Scorchers’ first 38 runs.
But it triggered a collapse of 4 for 10 capped by Hardie being clean bowled by Pope, who bowled well in tandem with Boyce in the middle overs.
The pressure fell on Inglis, who plays aggressively against spin but he succumbed to a rampant Boyce as Scorchers crashed to 70 for 5 in the 12th over.
Boyce was pumped up and Strikers were further buoyed when skipper Short took a spectacular diving return catch to dismiss Nick Hobson. Strikers were on fire as Bazley took a tough juggling catch on the boundary to snare Connolly to leave Scorchers’ faithful stunned and quickly heading for the exit.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth